Profiles in Art: Trinh Mai

diaCRITICS highlights artists of the Vietnamese diaspora.

Trinh Mai

Upcoming / Current

March 10:
Art: A Passage to Unearthing History — Artist Talk + Art-making Workshop at Portland Art Museum

February 6 – May 9, 2018: Hướng Nước // Inheritance // Water

Ba Ơi (Dear Father); detail (above)

Ba Ơi (Dear Father), 2017, mixed media (gouache, living plants, papyrus, rainwater from Vietnam, copies of Bác Phơưl’s release papers from re-education camp, scripture, tears, textile, and tree bark on Arches watercolor paper).

Thọ (Longevity)

About the Artist

Trinh Mai is an interdisciplinary, California-based artist who received her education at San Jose State University and UCLA. She exhibits nationally with works taking residency in public and private collections internationally. In addition to exhibiting her work with well-respected institutions such as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Naples Museum of Art, her passion for intermixing arts and collaboration has inspired her community involvement. She has served as Master Teaching Artist for the Bowers Museum, Course Developer for the Pacific Symphony, and Curator at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Trinh has also worked with the UC Irvine’s Vietnamese American Oral History Project as Artist-in-Residence to bring a visual arts language to help tell the stories of Vietnamese America.

Currently, Trinh is a member of the Artist Advisory Board for The Artist Odyssey, a global arts network who supports arts education, and a member of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artist Network. Having also served as Artist-in-Residence for Grand Central Art Center in partnership with Community Engagement, she has developed self-exploratory visual arts workshops to help bring art into underrepresented communities. Recognizing the role of art to educate and heal, Trinh has exhibited in support of numerous humanitarian groups, including the Friends of Hue Foundation Children’s Shelter in Vietnam and the Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia. Seeking hope within humanity’s struggle in war and hardship, she has partnered with Oceanside Museum of Art, MiraCosta College, and Bowers Museum in developing socially engaging projects with survivors of war. Her passion for intermixing arts and collaboration has inspired her diverse roles in the community, including her involvement as art educator, advisor, project director, curator, and resident artist for visual art and social practice for various cultural and arts organizations.

Lifeline Exhibit, Oceanside Museum of Art

War Wounds (detail)


Artist Statement:

While my work shares insight into my personal life experiences, it also communicates the messages that have found their rhythms in the human experience to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun. Drawn from intimate experiences of heartache and triumph, of struggle and perseverance, and of loss and fulfillment, my paintings strive to comfort and share the Faith that has fostered me during these times.

My current work embraces my heritage and aims to excavate my roots and the path which my ancestors have paved to allow me to be where I am and who I am. Through traditional imagery and symbolism, in both abstract and literal representations, I seek to clarify the connection I have to my ancestors, the world from which they came, and how this has molded the way I view the world around me. As a second generation Vietnamese American, art has become the valuable tool that has granted me the chance to live the immigrant experience vicariously through the elders, allowing me to interpret these stories through my own ears, eyes and hands.

Through the creative process, I am able to adopt both the joys and the hardships experienced through their stories, rewrite them as true tales of triumph, also a reminder that out of tragedy is ever born the blessings that we might have never been able to predict could or would come.

I pay respect to the details in the work as I hope to do in life. The often overlooked details in my work are brought to attention by my efforts to be more conscious and more perceptive of those things that go unnoticed, those things that we take for granted, and those quiet moments when the profundity of Life can speak so clearly to us. These works also speak on the healing that occurs on a human and universal level, while we wade through the circumstances of life, striving to find meaning and look to the passage of time to mend these afflictions.

Art is the channel through which I connect my spiritual to my earthly existence to tell the stories that we might all share. For me, it has made the intangible tangible and the unseen visible, and at times, offers comfort in the seemingly unbearable. It is my form of study and of prayer, and through my work, I share my journey through this trying and blessèd life.

facebook: @trinhmaistudios





February 6 – May 9, 2018: Hướng Nước // Inheritance // Water

Spring 2018: Artwork featured in Feminist Refugee Epistemology: Reading Displacement in Vietnamese and Syrian Refugee Art, an article by Yến Lê Espiritu and Lan Dương for Signs: Journal of Woman in Culture and Society

March 8: Artwork available at Tahirih Justice Center Benefit Gala to promote justice for women and girls worldwide.

March 10: Art: A Passage to Unearthing History – Artist Talk + Art-making Workshop at Portland Art Museum

March 11: My Family Tree series presented by the American Conservatory Theater at the Vietgone Community Dinner at The Strand Theater in San Francisco.

March 31-April 7Oceanside Museum of Art’s Annual Art Auction + Exhibition

May 5-6She Who Has No Masters at United States of Asian America Festival (USAAF) 2018, presented by APICC

Visual art, poetry, and performance to celebrate the Vietnamese feminine at the Asian Art Museum and International Hotel Manilatown Center.

Sep 1 – Oct 31New Terrains: Mobility and Migration
Presented by the San Jose Museum of Art in partnership with Chopsticks Alley. An exhibition celebrating Vietnamese fine artists at Art Object Gallery.




[Editor: DS]








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